A couple of perennial volleyball powerhouses with a lengthy history of facing off in the Class B tournament met up in Friday’s semifinal round as a Chester Area Flyers team that has advanced to the finals in the last four state championship tournaments and winning a state title in 2015, met the Warner Monarchs, a five-time state champion (2007, 2009, 2012-14).
Two of Warner’s recent state titles came via championship game wins over Chester (2013-14) while Chester turned the tables on the Monarchs winning a title game tilt in 2015. Warner had the best of it on Friday night overcoming a shaky start on the way to a 21-25, 25-14, 25-13, 25-16 victory.
The evenly matched teams swapped the first two sets with Chester Area jumping out to a 10-2 lead courtesy a couple of big hits by middle hitter Jadon Wages and three consecutive Warner attack errors perhaps prompted by a bit of intimidation by a series of Chester blocks.
The tide turned midway through the set when Warner, trailing 16-8, rallied back behind spikes by Peyton Ellingson to even the score at 19-all before the Flyers were able to regain momentum and close out the set 25-21 on a couple of middle hit winners by Dakota Alfson.
Despite losing the first set, the momentum Warner gained midway through the set carried over into sets two and three as the Monarchs leaped out to big leads in both behind the impressive front line striking of Laurie Rogers, Ellingson and Ashley Fischbach.
As a result, Warner breezed to 25-14 and 25-13 wins in the two sets.
“It was so amazing to come back like that,” said senior Ellingson who along with front line mates Rogers and Fischbach controlled the net for much of the match particularly after the slow start. “Our back row played so well keeping the ball in play and our setter Morgan (Rozell) kept give us great sets that made our job so easy.
Ellingson (a game high 26 kills) continued her sparkling play in the the third and final set knocking home three spike winners with left side cross court hits and stepping into the middle to send explosive blasts down the middle.
Though Chester managed to narrow the margin to 14-11 behind kills by Ella Pry and Alfston, the Flyers could draw no closer as Warner slowly extended the lead before Ellingson fittingly closed out the match with a couple of sharp angle middle hits.
“I told the girls when we lost the first set that it was best of five for a reason,” Warner coach Kari Jung said. “We just needed to win three sets by two points and if we stayed aggressive we could do that. Our serving was spot on tonight. We wanted to stay aggressive and let our hitting take over and we did that. And Peyton was nervous early but she stepped up big time for us.”
The win duplicated a close Warner win earlier in the season (25-17, 26-24) at the Pentagon in Sioux Falls.
“They are pretty young but from when we saw them in Sioux Falls they were way stronger tonight and we knew that from watching them and so we knew that we had to be on our game or we wouldn’t have a chance,” Jung added.
For a young Chester Area team with but one senior, a strong start succumbed to a buzzsaw performance once Warner overcame the slow start and amped up their game.
“We had a lot of adrenaline early and came out strong and Warner had some unforced errors in game one that helped for sure, but they really settled in after that,” Chester coach Jean Benson said. “They are really good and have good players on every part of the court that made it tough for us. I thought we did a good job of trying to contain Peyton Ellingson but I will tell you what, the girl can just play volleyball and has such a command of her game that it’s nearly impossible to defend her.”
Ellingson’s 26 kills led a well balanced Warner attack as Sydney Leidholt and Laurie Rogers chipped in with 12 kills apiece and Ashley Fischbach added 11 winners. Morgan Rozell had a game high 56 set assists for the Monarchs.
For Chester, Alfson and Jadon Wages recorded 12 kills each while Hanna Reiff contributed a game high 43 digs.
With the win, Warner (30-4) advances to to the 2017 Class B championship game on Saturday (4 p.m.) to meet top-seed and defending champion Northwestern (34-1). Chester Area (26-5) will face Herreid/Selby (30-3) at 12:30 p.m., with third place on the line.
NORTHWESTERN 3, HERREID/SELBY AREA 0: Northwestern punched its ticket to the Class B state title game with a straight set win over Herreid/Selby Area.
The Wildcats had little trouble from the outset, taking the first set 25-12. It wouldn’t get any better for the Wolverines as Northwestern won the next set 25-9, before closing out the match with a 25-16 third set.
Riley Grandpre led the Wildcats with 15 kills, while Madalyn Groft finished with 38 assists.
Cassie Anderson led the way for Herreid/Selby Area with 11 assists.
HANSON 3, FAITH 1: Jada Campbell and Brookelyn Slaba had 10 kills apiece to lead Hanson past Faith in the consolation semifinals of the Class B state tournament.
The Longhorns took the lead early with a 25-23 first set win, but the Beaverettes bounced back to take the next three sets 25-15, 25-17 and 25-18.
Heather Kayser helped pace Hanson with 28 assists, while Tessa Zens finished with 15 digs.
Mikenzy Miller led Faith with 13 kills, Sydnie Schauer had 29 assists and Brooklyn Hanson finished with 23 digs.
The Beaverettes will take on Burke/South Central for fifth place today at 10:45 a.m., while the Longhorns play Deubrook Area for seventh at 9 a.m.
BURKE/SOUTH CENTRAL 3, DEUBROOK AREA 0: Burke/South Central took the early lead and didn’t look back as it dropped Deubrook Area.
The Cougars earned a spot in the Class B consolation title with a 25-17, 25-12 and 25-19 victory.
Bobbi Jo Wischmann led Burke/South Central with 27 assists, Taylee Indahl had 15 kills and Tressa Bull tallied 11 kills.
Cortney Bauman led the Dolphins with 17 digs, and Shaylee DeBeer finished with seven kills and 11 digs.